dive sites

South Red Sea:
Mangroove bay: Location: 30km (19 miles) south of Quseir Access: By jeep from Quseir, then shore entry Average Depth: 20m (65ft) Maximum Depth: 35m (115ft) Average Visibility: 20m (65ft) This site is on the south side of a small bay. The north side of the bay is taken up by a large hotel construction project and is occasionally dived by live-aboards which shelter there form the north wind. However, the south side has a reef in a much better state of preservation, with little anchor damage. The sloping reef is interspersed with sandy ravines and begins midway along the south side of the bay, where a group of small pinnacles sits just off the reef. Follow the deeper section of the reef to the right, to the outside of the bay, then return at a shallower depth to the entry point. The coral here tends more to stony varieties, with brain and other massive types in evidence. Fish life is diverse and plentiful, with surgeons, unicorns, groupers, emperors, wrasse and basslets in good numbers. Try to avoid the many holes in the reeftop during entry/exit, as it is very easy to put a foot in one and turn an ankle or worse.

Big Brother: Location: In the central Red Sea, about 67km (36 nautical miles) east of El Quseir Access: By live-aboard from any Red Sea port Average Depth: 25m (80ft) Maximum Depth: 70m+ (230ft+) Average Visibility: 20m (65ft) The Brothers are a pair of tiny islands. Actually they are the exposed tips of two massive reef pillars that rise from the abyssal depths. They are the only significant reefs in the area, and as such act as a magnet for any pelagic and reef fishes. Washed as they are by the full force of open-sea currents, they support an incredible dense and diverse coral population, with almost overwhelmingly profuse soft coral growth on all sides. Big Brother, the larger of the two, lies about 1km (0.6 miles) north of its sibling. It is an oblong landmass some 400m (1312ft) long, easily identified by its Victorian stone lighthouse, a legacy of British rule. A narrow reef table round the island's shore gives way almost immediately to a sheer vertical wall, dropping well past the limits of sport diving. Absolutely fantastic coral growth begins at the surface and continues unabated into the depths. Gorgonians, sea whips, antipatharians and, above all, a wealth of soft corals of every conceivable species flourish in the big currents. The stony corals are also well represented. The fish life here is more than impressive, ranging from the tiniest anthias in the shallows to the most impressive sharks in the depths offshore. Big Brother also boasts a wreck on its northwest side, lying fairly deep. The bow is at 30m (100ft) and the stern is at least 40m (130ft) deeper, too deep for the average diver, especially this far from the nearest recompression chamber. The wreck, the Aida, is said to be a troop transport which went down in 1957. She sits upright on the steep slope, so covered with soft coral that the hull and superstructure look like some bizarre topiary. It is possible to penetrate the wreck, but given the depth, great care should be taken. Less than 100m (330ft) north of the Aida, a second, much older wreck lies in shallow water. Marked by a collection of strange, spoked wagon wheels where the bow section smashed into the reef at about 9m (30ft), the ship descends from the shallows to a maximum depth of 40m (130ft) where the hull is split. The stern section is said to lie still further below. She sits more or less upright and is completely covered in a gorgeous array of soft corals. This is one of the most amazing dives in the Red Sea. Some safaris spend a week or more here. The reef's isolated position makes it a rare treat for a privileged few divers.

Little Brother: Location: Just southeast of Big Brother, 67km (36 nautical miles) off El Quseir Access: By live-aboard from any Red Sea port Average Depth: 25m (80ft) Maximum Depth: 70m+ (230ft+) Average Visibility: 20m (65ft) This site, the smaller companion of Big Brother, is inferior in size only. The soft coral growth here is so unbelievably rich that the upper 30m (100ft) or so looks like a psychedelic crocheted cap over the reef. The breathtaking coral is the backdrop for some of the most spectacular fish action you are likely to find between Eilat and Eriutrea. The schooling fish that merely blanket Big Brother are so dense here as to block out the light. Surgeonfish, unicorns and snapper in uncountable masses swim by in shimmering schools so big you cannot see where they begin or end. If you can tear your eyes off the schooling fish, here you will find any other reef species you can name. Out in the blue, the show goes on with an incredible diversity of pelagics. Like Big Brother, this site attracts numerous sharks, including gray reefs, whitetip reefs, hammerheads, tigers, and even the ominous oceanic whitetip. Even majestic whale sharks are always a tantalizing possibility. Words cannot describe the diving experience here. After this, very few sites will ever measure up.

Elphinstone Reef: Location: 12km (6.5 nautical miles) off Marsa Abu Dabab on the south Egyptian coast Access: By live-aboard from any Red Sea port Average Depth: 20m (65ft) Maximum Depth: 70m+ (230ft+) Average Visibility: 20m (65ft) This long, finger-like reef runs from north to south in the open Red Sea. Steep walls drop to the depths on the reef's east and west sides, reaching 70m (230ft) or more, while the north and south ends of the reef are marked by submerged plateau. The northern plateau is very shallow, offering some superb snorkeling possibilities. The southern plateau is much deeper, with a drop-off at 30m (100ft) leading down to the depths. A large underwater arch can be found here, between 50 and 70m (164-230ft). This lies beyond the range of most sports divers, but has a fascinating story attached to it. Legend has it that the sarcophagus of an unknown pharaoh lies beneath the arch, and you can, in fact, see the outlines of a suspiciously rectangular, coral encrusted mass in the depths at around 60m (197ft). Coral coverage is dense and magnificent, with a full range of hard and soft corals on all sides. The east side in particular has some beautiful soft coral growth. A massive number of reef species lends still more color to the already dazzling walls, with a ready supply of big solitary and schooling pelagics to observe. One great hammerhead seems to be a permanent resident. This is an endlessly fascinating site, worth diving any number of times, both by snorkellers and by the more advanced diver.

Daëdelus Reef: Location: 96km (52 nautical miles) off Marsa 'Alam in the central Red Sea Access: By live-aboard from any Red Sea port Average Depth: 25m (80ft) Maximum Depth: 70m (230ft) Average Visibility: 20m (65ft) This small, isolated reef lies in the open sea, almost halfway to Saudi Arabia. Less than 800m (0.5 miles) across, it is marked by a lighthouse which forms the only break on the horizon for many miles in any direction. The reef has steep drops on the east, north and south sides, all offering good diving. The southern side offers excellent shelter form the prevailing north winds, and is the preferred mooring point for visiting boats. The profile of the reef on the three best sides is very sheer, running form the surface to depths of 70m (230ft) or more. On the west side, there is a drop-off with an 'anemone city', where you will find astonishing concentrations of beautiful anemones and a section of massive blue coral growth. To the north, the open water currents bring the best selection of pelagic fish. Moving down the east coast, another impressive drop-off runs toward the southeast tip of the reef, where there have been repeated sightings of thresher sharks. This is a rare opportunity to see these amazing predators up close. They are easily recognized by their elongated tails, with which they are said to 'thresh' schools of smaller fish, stunning them before eating them. The reef is richly developed throughout, with good coral growth from the surface to the depths. Hard and soft coral species are both well represented. Fish life is as dense as you would expect on an isolated reef pinnacle, with the usual reef species complemented by large concentrations of schooling species, such as snapper, longnose unicornfish and a variety of surgeonfish.

Sha´ab Sharm: Location: Off the south Egyptian coast, opposite El Sharm Access: By live-aboard from any Red Sea port Average Depth: 25m (80ft) Maximum Depth: 50m+ (164ft+) Average Visibility: 20m (65ft) This large, kidney-shaped reef, said to be the top of a volcanic pinnacle, features a steep sloping wall on its east and south sides, with a considerable varied profile, especially on the southeastern and southern stretches. The crescent of reef around the reef's southern tip offers the best diving, with rich coral growth from the surface shallows down, and the most int4eresting profile and layout in the area. There are numerous undercut sections and reef shelves harboring dense soft coral growth and a good range of hard corals. There are also some good black coral bushes on the wall's deeper sections. Fish life is excellent, with a vast array of huge grouper, schooling barracuda, massive congregations of snapper and unicorns and some very large giant, yellowmargin and yellowmouth morays. Currents here can be forceful, and less experienced divers should pay close attention to conditions.

Sataya/Dolphin reef: Location: The main reef of Fury Shoal, 28km (15 nautical miles) north-northwest of Ras Banas Access: By live-aboard from any Red Sea port Average Depth: 18m (60ft) Maximum Depth: 50m+ (164ft+) Average Visibility: 20m (65ft) This horseshoe-shaped reef lies in open water to the northeast of Ras Banas. The eastern side of the reef has a steeply sloping wall profile, giving way to a sandy slope scattered with coral heads and pinnacles toward the reef's southeast corner. The lower reaches of the reef are rather poorly covered, with the best coral growth occurring in the top 10m (33ft). The southern pinnacles are especially rich, with a wide variety of coral types throughout. The varied hard coral composition of the heads and pinnacles acts as a base for some extremely nice soft coral growth, particularly dendronephthia. Fish life here is excellent. Sch9ooling fish of all types are seen in large numbers, while reef-dwellers, such as angelfish and butterflies, provide flashes of color. Cuttlefish and shrimps put in an appearance for the invertebrates, and bluespotted and blackspotted stingrays are common. Sharks of several types can also frequently be spotted here, and there are regular reports of dolphins along the reef or inside the lagoon. The good shelter provided by the reef makes this an excellent stop for live-aboards.

Giftun Seghir/Small Giftun: Location: Off the coast north of Hurghada, to the south of Careless Reef Access: By day or live-aboard boat from Sharm El Sheikh or Hurghada Average Depth: 20m (65ft) Maximum Depth: 40m+ (130ft+) Average Visibility: 20m (65ft) This spectacular wall dive lies on the eastern/southern side of the smaller of the two Giftun islands. Boat moorings on the southern side of the island offer some of the best shelter in the area for overnighting or just a lunch break. The eastern wall drops sheer to great depths. It is very contoured, and its craggy profile features some interesting caves. Some of these lie fairly deep. One arched swimthrough at over 45m (150ft) is particularly impressive, but lies too deep for many divers. The reef shallows along the southern coast are less challenging, with depths from 18m (60ft) upward. The reef is well covered with both hard and soft corals. The steep wall section boasts a phenomenal congregation of gorgonians, as well as dense growth of sea whips and antipatharian black corals. The reef shallows are particularly rich in friendly smaller reef fish while big impressive pelagics buzz past in the blue waters off the wall.

Ras Mohammad:
Ras Ghozlani: Location: At the north edge of the month of Mersa Bereka, Ras Muhammad Access: By local or live-aboard boat from Sharm El Sheikh, Naama Bay or other ports Average Depth: 18m (60ft) Maximum Depth: 30m+ (100ft+) Average visibility: 20m (65ft) This site lies at the mouth of Mersa Bereka, the large shallow bay that nearly separates Ras Muhammad itself from the Sinai mainland. The reef follows the shoreline at the bay's northern point: a sheer but shallow inshore wall gives way to a sloping, patchy reef face below about 15m (50ft). It's hardly worth listing the vast array of coral at this site - if it exists in the Red Sea, you'll find it here. Fish life is abundant all across the reef in a riot of scintillating color. This is possibly the nicest spot on the southern coast for small reef species. Unlike the popular, but overcrowded sites, this superb site is not visited by hordes of divers each day, so its delicate beauty has been preserved.

Shark Reef / Jolanda Reef: Location: The Southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, at the south end of Ras Muhammad National Park Access: By shore, or by local or live-aboard boat from Sharm El Sheikh, Naama Bay or other ports Average Depth: 20m (65ft) Maximum Depth: 50m+ (164ft+) Average visibility: 20m (65ft) When divers think of Sinai, they think of Shark Reef and Jolanda. The two reefs are actually the twin peaks of a single coral seamount rising just off the Ras Muhammad coast, separated from the mainland by a shallow channel. Shark Reef, the easternmost of the two, boasts a sheer wall dropping to well past 50m (164ft) along its northeast and eastern sides, giving way to a steep reef slope as the reef proceeds southwest toward Jolanda. A shallow saddle lies between the two reefs at 18 to 20m (60-65ft). A second shallow patch lies south of Jolanda. This second flat patch is the site of what remains of the Jolanda, a wrecked freighter. The ship itself slipped into the deep in 1986 after a severe storm, but much of its cargo remains, incongruously strewn across the reef. Coral is excellent, with good if sparse growth on the wall sections and dense coral gardens on the shallower flat areas. Big pelagics and schooling fish swarm these reefs in the thousands. The Most impressive concentration is on the wall at Shark Reef. On the reef, hundreds of different reef fishes can be spotted as can moray eels of a meter (3ft) and bluespotted and blackspotted stingrays. As a boat dive, the two reefs are normally done as a drift, with the boat collecting you from the shallows beyond Jolanda. This alleviates many of the current related problems common here. You can also dive the site form shore, entering at Anemone City and swimming across the channel to Shark Reef. This should only be attempted if current is manageable, and extreme care should be taken to conserve enough air for the return trip. Shore entry option is inadvisable if you are not a strong swimmer.

Ras Umm Sid; Location: Ras Umm Sid point, southeast of Sharm El Moya/Sharm El Sheikh town Access: By shore, or by local or live-aboard boat from Sharm El Sheikh, Naama Bay or other ports Average Depth: 20m (65ft) Maximum Depth: 35m+ (115ft+) Average visibility: 20m (65ft) Ras Um Sid is located at the North Point of Sharm El Sheikh Harbor and is a coral shelf that begins at the shore. The reef slopes down to a depth of 80 feet and a sandy bottom. This is a steep sloping wall, extending from the point at Ras Umm Sid inward toward the bay to the west. The reef follows the shoreline, and is marked by intermittent sand patches, coral heads and pinnacles. Coral attractions include gorgonians, acropora, fire corals, dense soft coral patches and some substantial coral formations. The coral heads are the home of many reef fish. Among the many fish found here is the lionfish. In the blue waters off of the reef, are many open ocean fish including rays, barracudas and sharks, and on the sandy bottom, crocodilefish. There are also big and small jacks/trevally, emperor and regal angelfish, various parrotfish, picasso and other triggerfish, yellowspine and ringtail surgeons, Napoleon wrasse and moray eels . The typical depth range for Ras Um Sid is 20 to 80 feet and is best accessed by a shore dive, dive boat and local guide. The expertise required for this area is a snorkeled, novice, advanced, dive master or instructor.

Jackfish Ally: Location: Ras Muhammad, just south of Ras Za'atir Access: By shore, or by local or live-aboard boat from Sharm El Sheikh, Naama Bay or other ports Average Depth: 20m (65ft) Maximum Depth: 40m+ (130ft+) Average visibility: 20m (65ft) Fisherman's Bank, also known as Jackfish Alley and Stingray Alley, is located on the north side of the Ras Muhammed Peninsula and is within the boundaries of the Ras Muhammed National Park. It is a popular shore dive site and is located a short distance from the beach. The reef top is sand and has a sloping dropoff. There are many colorful reef fish like the emperor angelfish, regal angelfish, yellowband angelfish and pairs of bluecheek butterfly fish. Beginning with a sheer wall, the early section of the wall is very porous, with lots of small holes and crevices, and boasts a couple of penetrable caves, each featuring seperate exit and entrance holes. Proceeding southward, the wall gives way to a sandy plateau at around 20m (65ft), well covered with coral heads and outcrops. After widening out considerably, the plateau narrows at its southern end to form a small channel or alley. Further out from the wall, a second, seeper plateau can be found. Coral growth is good overall and the fish population is excellent, with plenty of the jacks and stingrays that give the site at least two of its names, and all the usual reef fish. The typical depth range of Fisherman's Bank is 10 to 80 feet and is best accessed by a shore dive, boat dive, or local guide. The expertise required for this area is a snorkeler, novice to advanced.

Tiran: Woodhouse Reef: Location: Second from the north in the Straits of Tiran reef chain Access: Local or live-aboard boat from Sharm El Sheikh, Naama Bay or other ports Average Depth: 15m (50ft) Maximum Depth: 40m+ (130ft+) Average visibility: 20m (65ft) Lying between Jackson and Gordon Reefs, Woodhouse is a long, narrow reef running at an angle form northeast to southwest. From its shallow reeftop, the reef drops at a sharp angle on all sides; although it is less than vertical throughout the reef's length, the angle steepens still further beyond 25m (80ft). Woodhouse is generally dived as a drift along the reef's eastern side. The current is usually moderate, but can pick up speed at certain phases of the Moon, particularly toward the northern channel between Woodhouse and Jackson. Care should be taken not to get pulled around the point here, as you could be swept off the reef into the main shipping lane. Coral cover is excellent throughout the reef, with dense growth all over; there ar4e a few sandy patches at depths of around 20m (65ft). Many species are present but because of the sheltered position of the reef, away from the main current, a certain amount of sedimentation has effected the corals here. Pelagic fish include big tuna and schools of trevally or jacks. Fusiliers, snapper, surgeons and unicorns also school here, along with thousands of other reef fish.

Jackson Reef: Location: 20m (65ft) Access: By local or live-aboard boat from Sharm El Sheikh or other ports Average Depth: 20m (65ft) Maximum Depth: 40m+ (130ft+) Average visibility: 20m (65ft) Jackson Reef is the most northern reef in the Strait of Tiran. On the northern edge of the reef, the wreck of a grounded freighter stands as a warning to shipping in the buy straits. Most of its hull has been salvaged for scrap, leaving only a skeletal hulk. A fixed mooring exits at the southern end of the reef. Dives begin from this point and proceed generally northward along the east side of the reef. Current tends to run from the north, and generally picks up strength as you approach the point on the east side. Most divers will want to make this the northern limit of their dive, and turn back to the south here. Strong swimmers with good air consumption and experience in currents can round the point, after which the current slackens, and continue their dive along the reef's north edge. This should only be done by prior arrangement with your dive guide, and great care should be taken, since divers have been swept off the reef here. The steep-sided walls of Jackson Reef are among the finest in the Sinai region. The current-swept reef is densely grown with a real profusion of hard and soft corals, with special accents provided by luxuriant gorgonian fans, sea whips and black corals, and vivid growths of soft coral. After sloping down, there is a plateau at about 30 to 60 feet and then the drop-off continues down to 225 feet. There are strong currents that carry divers around the northeast end of the reef. There is a sandy bay that is shallow on the north side. There are many schooling reef fish as well as open ocean fish that you may see if you look around into the blue waters around the reef. Fish life, not surprisingly, is excellent. The strong current brings plenty of nutrients for reef and schooling fish. Current and profile combine to tempt pelagic fish in from the open water, and large schools of barracuda and jacks are common here, as are larger predators including several species of shark. The smaller reef species on which these pelagic visitors feed are profuse.

Near Garden:
Location: Just south of Far Garden, to the north of Naama Bay Access: By local or live-aboard boat from Sharm El Sheikh or other ports Average Depth: 15m (50ft) Maximum Depth: 30m+ (100ft+) Average visibility: 20m (65ft) The Near Garden is located at the north entrance to Na'ama Bay. It is a coral shelf that extends out from the shore and extends for about 20 feet at a shallow depth. It then slopes off to 100 feet to a sandy bottom. In some places along the slope you may find sand channels that rise to the coral shelf. This site begins on an inshore mini-wall that drops from the surface reef table to about 15m (50ft). From here, the reef slopes gently outward, maintaining an even profile to 25m (80ft), where the slope steepens considerably. A huge number of pinnacles, heads and coral clumps dot the reef as it descends, hosting populations of colorful small reef fish. The larger reef fish are also present as are bluespotted stingrays resting half hidden on the sandy bottom. The wall is covered with fan corals, soft and hard corals which are the homes to many fish species. In this area you may find some large humphead wrasses that will sometimes swim up above you or alongside hoping to get a handout of food. Feeding of the fish is prohibited because it upsets the biological balance of the reef. There are some divers who disregard these regulations and the fish have become quite used to getting fed. This does come as some benefit to the divers as the fish are sometimes easily approachable for photos and videos. There are many glass-bottom boat tours and snorkel tours to this area and the feeding of the fish goes on in spite of the laws. The Near Garden is a great place for night diving. The reef is completely different at night than it is during the day. The basket and feather stars come out at night to feed in the currents and the lack of sunlight and the use of dive lights makes the colors of the reef more beautiful. The typical depth range is from 5 to 100 feet and is best accessed by a shore dive, boat dive or a local guide. The expertise that is required for this area is for a novice to advanced snorkeler. St. John's:

Shaab Marsa Alam: Large reef in front of the last southern civilian town on the Egyptian coastline. Corals gardens formed near huge coral blocks 'porites' and shoals of banners, goatfish, snappers and jacks. Shaab Maksur Good dives on both north and south plateaus, with strong currents which favour the growth of all types of coral, inclucing black, soft and fans. Sharks, napolean and tuna fish.

Gota Sharm: Good dives on both north and south plateaus, with strong currents which favour the growth of all types of coral, inclucing black, soft and fans. Sharks, napolean and tuna fish.